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CREATIVE STRATEGY: British Airways unfurls a new way to fly the flag

I've never been a big fan of British Airways or its advertising. Some business people who do many more air miles than I, refer to themselves as members of the ABBA club.

British Airways: 'don't fly' campaign

British Airways: 'don't fly' campaign

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ABBA = Anyone But British Airways. Why is this? Because BA can be so arrogant

And in my view, their smug, "we’re the flag-carrier" mindset seeped into much of their advertising over the years. But with one stroke of strategic brilliance and creative craft, my attitude has been changed 180 degrees.  

Unlike so many of the other sponsors, BA found a way to make their London Olympics campaign not only eye-catching, but refreshing in content and tonally bang on.

Because, let’s face it, how many advertisers tell potential customers NOT to buy their product. But this was the central plank of the airline’s campaign - don’t fly with us, stay in the UK and support Team GB instead.

While I couldn’t fault the art direction, the headlines were especially sweet. "The national anthem won’t sing itself"  being one example in many.  

Gone is any trace of BA’s former arrogance. Humility and wit are the new ingredients of its red, white and blue patriotism. Far more effective, one would have thought.

And if that wasn’t enough, the advertiser repeated the trick with its support for the Paralympics. All the evidence suggests that many agencies have forgotten how to put a decent press ad together. But not BA’s creatives.

In a cleanly art-directed landscape space, the line reads: "Please return to the edge of your seats." Again, this was just one of several high-quality executions.

Of course there was more to the strategy than mere modesty. Dovetailing with the 2012 ads we had "The Go After The Games Sale" campaign. Simple, colourful visuals convey holiday and leisure imagery using references to Olympic sports. It’s hard sell with a soft edge.  

There isn’t room here to describe all the facets of this campaign. Did it work? We’ll have to wait on the IPA paper, perhaps. But judging from Facebook and Twitter, people in our industry certainly warmed to it. Who wouldn’t?

Simon S Kershaw is a creative consultant and a former creative director at Craik Jones

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